‘Sri Lanka: A new beginning’ at European Commission Conference
Chairperson of Sri Lanka first, and Chairman and Managing Director of
Grant McCann Erickson Neela Marikkar, has long been active and outspoken
in her quest to involve the private sector in sustainable peace and
development in Sri Lanka.
Invited to speak at the European Commission conference “Making a
Difference” held in Brussels recently, Marikkar was among 1,000 policy
makers and practitioners in conflict prevention and crisis response from
the international community, who gathered to explore and identify
effective approaches to the strengthening of crisis response capacities.
“When I was asked to address the distinguished gathering I was
honoured. Reading into the background of the forum at which I would be
speaking I was dismayed to note that Sri Lanka had been classified as a
‘fragile state’, which essentially means that ‘the social contract
between the state and its citizens is broken’, I made it my mission to
change this perception and make a case for our country as a confident,
multicultural nation that had survived three decades of conflict with
strength, resilience and fortitude,” Marikkar said.
Her presentation cited the country’s democratic values as well as
high human indices which included its literacy rate, gender ranking,
health care facilities provided by the state, ILO standard labour
compliance, per capita income, as well as the year on year growth of the
The boost that was seen in the stock exchange within days of the end
of the ethnic conflict, was also a factor that placed Sri Lanka well out
of the fragile state category.
Sri Lanka’s vibrant parliamentary democracy in which elections for
all government structures were held irrespective of the 30 year war, was
also a central to her argument, along with the country’s effective
Marikkar went straight to the heart of the issue by addressing the
last stages of the war and the status of the IDPs - an issue that has
been spotlighted heavily, and negatively in the international media
“Yes, these last stages of the war have been immensely destructive and
painful especially because of the tremendous suffering of the innocent
Tamil civilians caught in the crossfire.
The 250,000 hostages held by the LTTE as human shields and subjected
to death if they tried to escape; their subsequent evacuation probably
one of the biggest humanitarian rescue operations ever by a military.
Unknown to many,the IDP question is not new to Sri Lanka - in the early
nineties the LTTE ethnically cleansed 100,000 Muslims from the Jaffna
They were given two hours to leave the city or face death and they
could take with them only the clothes they were wearing and no more than
50 rupees in cash,” Marikkar said.
“Today the IDP’s are housed in government refugee camps. In their
midst, screening for armed combatants is an uncomfortable necessity for
long term security. Once identified there is a plan to rehabilitate
these combatants so that they can be disarmed, demobilized and
reintegrated into society.
Currently a policy frame work is being drawn up by the Ministry of
Human Rights and Disaster Management in partnership with ILO, relevant
Ministries and the Private Sector for their social and economic
reintegration, the aim of which is to persuade these combatants they can
have a new life, one that is outside the theatre of war and armed
conflict,” she said.